Treating pain where it begins…in our thinking

Ana LoboTelevision, radio and internet ads, billboards and hallways of many public facilities these days are strewn with images of people living amid beautiful sunsets, towns with safe and beautiful biking paths, peaceful, starry nights, and well appointed middle-class living rooms. We are led to believe that each of these individuals is living a healthier, happier life as a result of the drug being promoted through the images.

Each ad promises relief from some malady. They are compelling in their promises. We will sleep better, have less pain, more energy, and we will have a handsome or beautiful partner sharing all these things with us. Finally, the ads end with a list of the possible side effects and clear directions to “Ask your doctor if ‘such and such’ would be good for you.”

“TV ads encourage consumers to self-diagnose and treat potentially serious medical problems as easily as they rid themselves of dandruff with the right shampoo.” says Ed Wallace of businessweek.com.

In a Jay Leno monologue on the Tonight show, he said they had recently timed an ad for a prescription drug — about 15 seconds for the product and over 40 seconds for the side effects.    And, according to the personal experience of a friend of mine, the side effects can be worse than the malady the drug is supposed to be helping.

According to Wallace, “overmedication of America really began 12 years ago when the Federal Drug Administration allowed drug companies to advertise their products on TV.  Americans could now diagnose themselves during commercial breaks, and then ‘ask their doctor’ to prescribe a particular drug for them.”  For years New Zealand was the only industrialized country in the world that allowed this practice, but the US joined its ranks. And because of the global nature of media and advertising, large percentages of the populations in many nations are now exposed to some level of drug advertising.

“Many Western nations have actually banned it for being unethical, but in the United States, it is a billion-dollar business.  In fact, pharmaceutical companies have been found to spend more on advertising to consumers than they do on actually researching the drugs.”

So serious is this problem that an alliance of patients, physicians, consumer watchdog groups and journalists have begun to meet once a year to coordinate how, as a coalition, they might turn this tide on a large scale.

If we can’t, as individuals, necessarily be involved in a national or larger effort to remedy this situation, what can we do in our own lives to be sure we don’t get caught up in being “sold” on sickness and drugs?:

  • Don’t assume the promises are true;
  • Don’t blindly accept that if a drug is good, then more of it is necessarily even better;
  • Pay close attention to the “possible side effects.”
  • Be prepared to investigate and ask questions when seeking solutions to health    problems.

And, if we are in pain or suffering from some illness and haven’t found relief, and if we are concerned about side effects … what other options might we have?

There are many. And, one group of approaches is increasingly being explored and proving useful – the so-called “mindfulness practices”, including prayer, meditation, relaxation and similar methodologies.

“If you watch your mind throughout the day … you will always find that you are bemoaning the past or catastrophizing the future.” comments Dr. Donna Rockwell, a clinical psychologist specializing in mindful approaches to daily living and adjunct faculty member at Michigan School of Professional Psychology and SaybrookUniversity, School of Mind-Body Medicine.

Dr. Rockwell’s work and that of many others is increasingly finding that there are solutions to headache and other pain that are drug-free and side effect free. These include changing one’s lifestyle to reduce stress and developing practices that bring mental peace into our daily lives.

“Spiritual Healing, Prayer Healing, Religious belief, faith – whatever we call it- is shown to have a profound effect on our health. Research has shown that spiritual healing can provide permanent relief from the worries and difficulties that plague us. It can bring about a complete revolution in the consciousness and the body. It can effect enduring physical, mental, and emotional change.” (5)

There was a time when I took aspirin like it was candy.  I had frequent headaches.  Popping a pill gave me relief for a little while.

A friend told me that headaches could be a sign of stress brought on by fear of what could happen in the future or worry about something that has happened in the past.

For some time this friend had been using  prayer to deal with pain in her life. She told me that she found it to be especially helpful in calming thought and getting rid of headaches.  No drugs?  As the headaches weren’t lessening from day to day by taking painkillers, I decided to try prayer.

The contents of my prayers were many, but one thing stood out to me as I searched for helpful Bible passages — reduce fear.  Jesus said, “Be not afraid, only believe.” (Mark 5:36) and in I John, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casted out fear: … He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18).   I was learning to be mindful of my thoughts; to keep them close to the divine.  I started choosing not to be afraid of the past or of the future, but to concentrate on what was happening now.

Little by little, I was able to let go of fears that had plagued me for years.  And, little by little, the headaches left me. So did my dependence on painkillers.

I’m not alone in my experience. Many today are finding relief from pain through a wide variety of treatments and practices that focus on addressing the pain where it begins – in our thinking. The potential for this kind of approach to not only bring relief but also avert the possibility of negative side effects is immense.

photo by Ano Lobo was uploaded from flickr.com

Kate is interested in blogging about health, health care, spirituality, Christian Science, science, the importance of prayer and religion.  She is a Christian Science practitioner and the media, legislative and public contact for Christian Science in the state of Maryland.  She and her husband enjoy hiking, especially with Callie, a Blue Heeler, and riding motorcycles.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

  1. Truly enjoyed this blog! I prefer to mute my tv during commercial breaks now so I’m not inundated with all kinds of diseases, their symptoms, and the pills side effects.